« ՆախորդըContinue »
appointed praetorian prsefects, and magistrimilitum, and counts of the sacred largesses, just as the Emperors before him had done. The senate still sat at Rome and passed otiose decrees, the consuls still gave their names to the year. But his great scheme of expropriation, by which one-third of the land of each of the richer proprietors of Italy was confiscated for the benefit of his mercenary troops, must have caused much trouble and heart-burning. It is curious that we find so little complaint made about it in the historians of the time. Probably Odoacer's wisdom in letting the smaller proprietors alone has preserved his name from the abuse which still clings to the reputations of many of the Teutonic conquerors of the empire.
On the whole the provincials of Italy must have felt comparatively little change, when they began to be governed by a barbarian king, instead of by a barbarian patrician, such as Ricimer or Gundobad had been. Odoacer appears to have been one of those wise men who can let well alone. Though an Arian himself, he refrained from all religious persecution; and, if he firmly asserted his right to confirm the election of bishops of Rome, we do not find that he ever forced his own nominees on the clergy and people. Indeed, he was noted as a represser of the alienation of church lands and of simony.
Odoacer's foreign policy seems to have been limited in its scope to the design of keeping together the old 'Diocese of Italy,' that is, the peninsula with its mainland appendages of Noricum and north Illyria. He ceded to the Visigoth Euric the coastland of Provence, which he had found still in Roman hands, and made no attempt to establish relations with the Romano-Gallic governor Syagrius, who held Mid-Gaul, pressed in between Visigoth and Frank. On the other hand, he pursued a firm policy on his north-east frontier. When Julius Nepos was murdered by rebels in 480, Odoacer at once invaded and subdued the Dalmatian kingdom, which the ex-emperor had till the last contrived to retain. Further north, in Noricum, the Rugians had for many years been molesting the Roman provincials and pushing across the Danube. Odoacer sent against them his brother Hunwulf, who drove them back over the river, and took prisoner Feva their king. But, when freed for a moment from their Rugian oppressors, the Roman provincials took the opportunity, not of repairing their ruined cities, but of migrating _ ,. en masse to Italy. Protected by the army of
£> vacua non -* J *
of Noricum Hunwulf, the whole population of Noricum, 487' bearing all their goods and chattels, their
treasures, and even the exhumed bodies of their saints, poured southward over the Alps, and obtained from Odoacer a settlement on the waste lands of Italy, which the Vandals had ruined. Only in the Rhaetian valleys did some remnants of the Latin-speaking population linger behind. Hence it comes that south Bavaria and archducal Austria are not at this day speaking Roumansh, like the Engadine, but the German tongue of the Rugians and Herules who passed into the deserted province of Noricum, when it was abandoned a few years later by the armies of Odoacer.
For thirteen years, 476-489, the Scyrrian king bore rule over Italy, Noricum, and Dalmatia with very considerable success. As the years rolled on without any disaster, with the army in good temper, and the Italians fairly content at being at last freed from Vandal and Gothic raids, Odoacer must have begun to believe that he had established a kingdom as well founded as those of his Burgundian or Visigothic neighbours. But there was one fatal weakness in his position: he depended not on the loyalty of a single compact tribe, but on the fidelity of a purely mercenary army, made up of the remnants of a dozen broken Teutonic clans, which looked upon him as a general and a paymaster, and not as a legitimate hereditary prince, descended from the gods and heroes. The regiments of Foederati, who had proclaimed him king, were in no sense a nation; it would have taken many generations to weld them into one, and the fabric of the new kingdom was to be tried by the roughest of shocks before it was even half a generation old.
In 489 there came against Odoacer from the Danube and the Illyrian Alps, Theodoric, son of Theodemir, the king of the Ostrogoths, with all the people of his race behind him—a vast host with their wives and children, their slaves and their cattle, blocking all the mountain-passes of the north-east with the twenty thousand ox-waggons that bore their worldly goods.
Theodoric, the king of that half of the Gothic race which had lingered behind in the Balkan peninsula, when Alaric led the other half westward, was just at the end of a long series of rebellions and ravages by which he had reduced Thrace and Moesia to a condition even more miserable than that in which they had been left by the hordes of Attila.1 Having failed, like all his forerunners, to take Constantinople, and having concluded his fourth peace with the emperor Zeno, he found himself left with a half-starved army in a land which had been harried quite bare. He had tried his best to reduce the Eastern empire to the condition to which Ricimer had brought the Western, but the impregnable walls of Byzantium had foiled him. Young, capable, and ambitious, he was yearning for new and more profitable fields to conquer; while, at the same time, the emperor of the East was casting about for all possible means to get the Goths as far away from his gates as could be managed. Both Zeno and Theodoric had their reasons for wishing ill to Odoacer: the emperor believed him to have fostered or favoured a late rebellion in Asia which had shaken his throne;2 the Ostrogothic king was being stirred up by Rugian exiles who had fled before the conquering arm of the king of Italy.
Neither party then needed much persuasion when a scheme
was broached for an invasion of Odoacer's realm by the
Ostrogoths. Zeno, taking the formal ground that, by the
admission of Odoacer and the Italians, he was emperor as
1 See pp. 40-3. 2 See p. 44. well of West as of East, proceeded to decree the deposition of the patrician who now ruled at Rome, and his supersession by a new patrician, the king of the Ostrogoths. Theodoric, in return for his investiture with his new title, and the grant of the dominion of Italy, made a loosely-worded promise to hold his future conquests as the emperor's representative. How far such homage would extend neither party much cared; the emperor only wanted to get rid of the king of the Goths; the king of the Goths -knew that once master of Italy he could pay the emperor just as much or as little deference as he might choose.
In the autumn of 488 Theodoric called together the whole Ostrogothic people to a camp on the middle Danube, and bade them prepare for instant migration. The inclement season of the year that he chose for this march seems to have been dictated by fear of famine, for the war had so ravaged Moesia that the Goths had not provisions enough to last till next spring. So, in the October of 488, the Ostrogoths, a great multitude of 200,000 or 300,000 souls, followed the Roman road along the Danube, crossed at Singidunum and set out to march across Pannonia. But they soon meet with opposition; Traustila, king of the Gepidae, who now occupied both banks of the mid-Danube, came out against them with his host to prevent them from passing through his land. Theodoric defeated him, but found such difficulty in pressing on through the hostile country that he had to winter on the Save, supporting all his host on the plunder of the farms of Theodoric tne Gepidae. In the spring of 489 he moved on, invades Italy, and pressing through the passes of the Julian 4 9 Alps, without meeting any opposition from the
troops of the king of Italy, came out at last to the spot where the gorge of Schonpass leads down into the plain of Venetia. Here, on the banks of the Isonzo, Odoacer was waiting for him with all his host of Foederati, and there was a mighty battle. The result was not doubtful; the Ostrogoths, a single people, fighting for their wives and families, who lay behind them in the crowded pass, led by their hereditary king, the heaven-born Amal, and knowing that defeat meant destruction, were too desperately fierce to be stopped by the mixed multitude of mercenaries that followed Odoacer. The king of Italy was routed, his camp stormed, his army scattered. It was only beneath the walls of Verona that he could rally it for a second stand. Just a month after the battle of the Isonzo, Theodoric appeared again in front of his enemy, and again won a prompt victory. Here perished most of the old regiments of Foederati that had been wont to defend Italy, for Odoacer had fought with the rapid Adige behind him, and the greater part of his army was rolled back into the fierce stream.
Abandoning north Italy Odoacer now fell back on the marsh-girt fortress of Ravenna, which had baffled so many invaders of the peninsula. Theodoric meanwhile pressed forward and occupied Milan and all the valley of the Po; his triumph was apparently made complete by the surrender of Tufa, the magister militum of Odoacer's host, who submitted to the Ostrogoth with the wreck of the Italian army. (Autumn, 489.)
But the war was destined to endure for three years more: Ravenna was impregnable and Theodoric was thrice diverted from its siege by disturbances from outside. First Tufa, with the remnant of the Foederati, broke faith and rejoined his old master Odoacer. Then, in the next year, Gundobad, king of the Burgundians, came over the Alps and had to be turned back. Last Frederic, king of the Rugians, the first of the many Frederics of German history, took arms in favour of Odoacer, though Theodoric had sheltered him three years before, when he had fled from the armies of the king of Italy. It was not till July 401 that Odoacer was for _,.
* -* oiege 01
the last time driven back within the shelter of Ravenna, the marshes of Ravenna. For twenty months *9l-93more he maintained himself within its impregnable walls, till sheer famine drove him to ask for peace in February 493. Period I. B